The effects of mixotrophy on the stability and dynamics of a simple planktonic food web model

Christian Jost, Cathryn A. Lawrence, Francesca Campolongo, Wouter Van De Bund, Sheryl Hill, Don L. DeAngelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Recognition of the microbial loop as an important part of aquatic ecosystems disrupted the notion of simple linear food chains. However, current research suggests that even the microbial loop paradigm is a gross simplification of microbial interactions due to the presence of mixotrophs - organisms that both photosynthesize and graze. We present a simple food web model with four trophic species, three of them arranged in a food chain (nutrients-autotrophs-herbivores) and the fourth as a mixotroph with links to both the nutrients and the autotrophs. This model is used to study the general implications of inclusion of the mixotrophic link in microbial food webs and the specific predictions for a parameterization that describes open ocean mixed layer plankton dynamics. The analysis indicates that the system parameters reside in a region of the parameter space where the dynamics converge to a stable equilibrium rather than displaying periodic or chaotic solutions. However, convergence requires weeks to months, suggesting that the system would never reach equilibrium in the ocean due to alteration of the physical forcing regime. Most importantly, the mixotrophic grazing link seems to stabilize the system in this region of the parameter space, particularly when nutrient recycling feedback loops are included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-51
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Food webs
  • Intraguild predation
  • Marine food webs
  • Mixotrophy
  • Nutrient recycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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